Friday 31 May 2013

Blog from Belgium - Day One

The annual bantamspast trip to the battlefields of the Great War is this year concentrating on the Ypres Salient in Belgium. Scene of some of the most bloody fighting of the conflict, Ypres became the final resting place of Bradford City's FA Cup winning captain and goalscorer Jimmy Speirs and the man-of-the-match in the replayed final Robert Torrance.
The first day commenced in drizzly conditions at Essex Farm Cemetery where John McCrae wrote the famous poem 'In Flanders Fields' whilst serving with the Canadian Army Medical Corps. Adjacent to the cemetery is the large obelisk memorial to the 49th West Riding Division. The division included the Belle Vue based 1/6th West Yorkshire Regiment. Among their casualties was City reserve Ernest Goodwin. Part of the divisional artillery was the 2nd West Riding Royal Field Artillery. They were based at the Valley Parade Drill Hall. When they mustered to depart for France at the start of the war it is reported that they used the Valley Parade pitch to store their guns and horses.
We moved on from Essex Farm to visit several cemeteries. The highlight was Lijssenhoek, which is the second largest British war cemetery in the world with some 9,901 burials. A highly informative visitor centre illustrates the work of the adjacent casualty clearing station which treated 300,000 injured soldiers.
After lunch and in increasingly glorious sunshine we searched for the site of the location where Robert Torrance was mortally wounded. Sadly he has no known grave. However, just across the fields from where the action took place where Torrance lost an arm and later died, is Klien Vierstraat British Cemetery. It is the home of bodies discovered after the war and if Robert does have a grave he is likely to be among the 109 that are marked 'A Solider of the Great War, known unto God'.
We continued the unforgettable day at the famous locations of Sanctuary Wood and Hill 60. Tomorrow we will seek out the location where Jimmy Speirs met his untimely end. Find out if we were successful when the blog is published tomorrow night.

Wednesday 29 May 2013

Latest News from bantamspast

How to reflect such an unforgettable season? That will be the task in hand for the small bantamspast team this summer. We are delighted to have been invited to work closely with Mark Lawn to produce a new 2013 Suite at Valley Parade. Although we are at a very early stage of developing ideas, the overall vision is an exciting one and we hope we will produce something that will capture the magic of this remarkable season and its historical context. As the project progresses we will post further details, but with a major Cup Final and a Play-Off Final victory to reflect on, we are not short of content and artefacts – including a large shiny trophy.

On Thursday 30 May the annual bantamspast trip to the battlefields of the Great War gets underway. This year the focus is Belgium and in particular the infamous Ypres Salient. Several City players met their deaths near the Belgian town. The FA Cup captain and goal scorer Jimmy Speirs was killed during the terrible Battle of Passchendaele in 1917. We are planning to visit the location where he was killed and of course his final resting place. The man of the match in the FA Cup Final replay Robert Torrance was blasted into oblivion in 1918 and his body was never found. We will remember him at the Tyne Cot Memorial to the Missing where his name is inscribed. At nearby Poperinghe is the grave of City’s amateur centre half Gerald Kirk. He was killed in the wake of the first use of poison gas in warfare in 1915. Leading his company in a counter attack trying desperately, and successfully, to defend a gap in the Allied lines. The Dalesman paid with his life. The centre half who replaced Gerald in the Bantams’ team was James Comrie. Another man with no known grave his name is inscribed among the 56,000 of the Menin Gate at Ypres. Of course, this terrible litany is only a tiny fraction of the huge losses suffered at Ypres. Many of the people on the trip will be bringing stories of their own family’s loss with them, as well as that of the wider City of Bradford. If it proves practicable David Pendleton will provide a daily blog of the trip which takes place between Thursday 30 May and Sunday 2 June.

We are also collaborating with the Bradford based theatre company Northern Lines in the writing of their production ‘City Stories: It’s Only the Cup. War, Love and Football’, which will be staged at the New Bradford Playhouse, Little Germany, 27/28 June.

Finally, we will be adding around a dozen new framed images to the displays in our museum in exile at Bantams Bar on the Kop. At the moment admission is only available to holders of Bantams Bar season tickets and individual match day tickets. However, we have also added a couple of new images to our museum in exile display at the Corn Dolly public house on Bolton Road in the city centre. Admission is open to all – for the price of a pint!

Saturday 11 May 2013